As a frequent user of the Vivino-App, a wine scanner for smart phones I have come upon a fairly unknown wine producing country, Serbia. Using the App one can earn badges for scanning different wines, in this case a badge for scanning a wine from Serbia. Searching the internet did not really show any interesting wines, the neighboring countries Croatia and Slovenia are much easier to get wines from here in Germany. But for these, there are no badges with Vivino…
Serbia has quite a long history concerning wine, a history that has directly influenced the wine regions of Europe. The Roman emperor Probus was born in the Serbian of Sremska Mitrovica. He cancelled the edict Domitian’s edict which forbid any planting of vines north of the alps. That would have meant, no Champagne, no Burgundy, no German wines at all.
Up to the Ottoman occupation wine making was flourishing in Serbia. The eventual freedom freed the wine makers as well, so wines could be produced. The next enemy of Serbian wines was a little insect, the Phylloxera. It had a mixed influence though. The northern region of Subotica-Horgos, near the Hungarian border was protected against Phylloxera by way of sandy soils. A lot of wines could be exported from here to compensate for other wine regions in Europe, where no wine could be produced anymore. In the other regions of Serbia Phylloxera was a problem that could only be solved by grafting onto american vine roots, which took some time to be discovered.
During the Communist era, quantity was looked for rather than quality. Only now with talks of Serbia joining the european market this trend has changed, a new wine law has been introduced, similar to ones from the EC setting a focus on quality and its control.
Serbia as a wine producing country has a unique climate. Temperate to warm temperate, sub humid to wet with very cool nights. A blend of Baden’s cool nights and precipitation combined with the sun of Tuscany would be a good description. Which suits red wine, only the heavy rains distract a bit. But usually there are strong winds from the Adriatic Sea, keeping the vines healthy. But strict yield control has to be enforced.
The most important wine growing regions from north to south:
Sandy soil, around the Palić Lake near the Hungarian border. Serbia’s coolest region although the lake acts as a warmth accumulator, thus ensuring a less harsh contrast of day and night temperatures.
South of the Carpathians there is still a German influence to be found. More white wines are made here than reds, which from a climate point of view does not make sense, but maybe this will change.
This fertile plain bordering Croatia is mostly influenced by the Fruška Gora mountain. Its here on the southern side that most of the regions vines are grown. Due to the southern exposure and the heart retaining properties of the mountain soil the warmth does not drop too low during nights, similar to the Banat region and the influence from the Carpathians. Here as well more whites are made.
Sumadija – Great Morava:
Penned in between the rivers of Danube and Morava, this is one of Serbia’s cooler regions. Cool is relative, Cabernet Sauvignon can easily ripen here.
The hilly region around the western Morava is seen as the cradle of Serbian wine. There is a problem of high rainfall.
This small region has a high contrast of temperature between summer and winter but also between day and night. Even sun loving grape varieties like Mourvèdre and Carignan could ripen here if it were not for the frequent winter frosts.
Nisava – South Morava:
One of Serbia’s warmer regions but not as extreme as Timok.
Then there is the small region of Pocerina around the Cer mountain and depending on your political point of view the region of Kosovo.
And now for the wines:
I found them on the homepage of Samovino, a young start-up looking for capital through crowd-funding. Their goal is to introduce Serbian wines to Germany. To achieve this they toured Serbia two times and tasted 200 wines from 40 winemakers. Lukas Ertl, one of the founders was nice enough to send me three of their wines, that they wanted to include in their final selection.
2011 Sofia Tamjanika, Winery Braca Rajković, Region Župa, Subregion of Western Morava
The Tamjanika grape is identical with Muscat blanc á petits grains. But it has been grown here for 500 years so that through natural selection the vines have perfectly adapted to the climate and terroir.
The Rajković family has been growing grapes since the 18th century. They grow mostly red wine grapes, being famous for introducing Serbia’s first Pinot Noir in 1962.
2011 is not a really young vintage for a Muscat, but lets see:
Straight out of the fridge:
Strong, ripe melon followed by elder flower, ripe apricot, acacia honey and grapefruit.
Full, soft acidity which comes from behind together with a accentuated bitter. Grapefruit and elderflower aftertaste.
This Tamjanika reminds me of a fully ripe Muscat that has some Viognier grapes thrown into the press. No sign of oxidation, great fruit. Drink rather cool to give freshness to the wine, the fruit can handle it.
My first Serbian wine was a nice surprise.
The Vivino-App needs to do better tough. Scanning all three pictured wines did not get me a single badge!